Upon reentry, tattoos can serve as a constant and painful reminder of the past. Seeing these visible marks everyday may reinforce an identity that you no longer align with and can be a barrier to moving on personally and professionally. Removing tattoos can be a powerful way to symbolize change and grant you the mental freedom to move forward with your journey toward a better life. With your tattoo gone, you may even experience an increase in confidence and mental strength.
Heal Emotional Scars
Some tattoos may represent a positive time or achievement in your life, such as the birth of a child, a motivational phrase, or in honor of a lost loved one. However, for many individuals who have been incarcerated, tattoos represent a dark period in their life, such as a gang initiation, time spent in prison, or the name of an abusive partner. Tattoo removal can help heal any past emotional and physical wounds that were left behind due to each person’s unique experiences.
If a tattoo is gang-related, further violence can come from rival gang members or even from police, who may act in a more heightened, urgent, and aggressive way when they see someone with a gang tattoo.
In prison, survival is a priority and tattoos are often used as one of the tactics used to seek protection.
Nearly half of all women and men in the U.S. will experience psychological aggression in their lifetime. Branding tattoos are used to show ownership and work as a psychological reminder of the survivor’s subservience to their abuser. As a result, these tattoos can cause shame, trauma, and depression. For many survivors, the tattoos represent a physical manifestation of the power and control their abusers exerted over them.
Remove Barriers to Employment
Removing visible tattoos can help you with your professional goals. When outward appearance is the only information we have about a person, unfortunately many people make some sort of judgement about the person using the limited knowledge available. Though these snap judgements are not always accurate, it can create subconscious bias and lead to different treatment. For example, certain types of tattoos may create a negative impression of you that could potentially lower your chances of being hired. Some workplaces are tattoo-friendly, but tattoos on your face or those with gang affiliation and profanity give off a bad impression in the professional world.
Previously incarcerated individuals already face a barrier to employment due to their past. With tattoo removal, individuals can show themselves and others that they are reformed, and they can increase their likelihood of getting a job.
How to Remove Tattoos
Today’s tattoo removal technology is safe and can be completed with minimal discomfort. Tattoos done while in prison are typically closer to the surface of the skin than professional tattoos, making them easier to remove.
There are many free or low-cost tattoo removal resources. Search the tattoo removal category on our map to find removal services near you. In addition, Removery has an ink-nitiative program that offers free tattoo removal services for approved applicants in select cities. Check here to see if you qualify and apply for services.
GEO Reentry Connect is a comprehensive resource for individuals who have been incarcerated. Find resources you need upon release from prison or jail–employment, housing, education, family services, treatment, and more.